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  • Writer's pictureNatalie Robinson Bruner

Eight Ideal Work Elements

Updated: Mar 27

a long time ago in an office far, far away

A long time ago in an office far, far away ….

There lived a leader who treated their staff like family. The team felt like true collaborators in the work of the organization. They had the freedom to accomplish goals in a manner that worked best for them. That included when and where they worked. Everyone treated each other with the highest of values like fairness and equity and in turn trust and respect grew. This leader took an active interest in their team members’ careers by helping to cultivate their skills and advocating for them. Everyone worked because they wanted to do a good job and did not restrict their job to a description. And when someone made a mistake, it became a compassionate learning opportunity. The leader and team worked together to create and maintain this environment. As a result, everyone was truly engaged.

And they all lived happily ever after.

Storm trooper in an office window

I hope you work here. But, most of our organizations are still working to master all of these components of engagement at the same time. This organization serves as an example by displaying the work elements we should all strive to employ. These are 8 ideal work elements (Swensen & Shanafelt, 2020) that have been identified as markers of an engaged organization:

1) Partnership

  • Staff should be treated as partners, never as employees. Partners have a shared vision, invest discretionary effort, and look to accomplish a vision together.

  • Strategy: Hire and promote staff whose behaviors and actions are aligned with the mission, strategy and vision of the organization.

2) Trust and Respect

  • Treating staff as reliable team members regardless of culture, race, gender-identity, religion, discipline, orientation, creed, age or tradition.

  • Strategy: Build trust and respect by making every attempt to treat all staff fairly through behaviors and policies. [Side Note: Extensive conscious and unconscious biases result in feelings of disrespect].

3) Balancing Control and Flexibility

  • Control gives staff agency to change their work lives. Flexibility gives them the capacity to manage the circumstances of their work lives.

  • A study by Citigroup determined that nearly half of employees would forgo a 20% raise for greater control over how they work. Strategy: Give people discretion in how their work is done.

4) Professional Development and Mentorship

  • Investing in individuals, unlocking, and developing their talent, and harnessing that talent to help the organization achieve its mission.

  • Strategy: Create a blended mentoring/coaching culture that supports individual, team, and organizational development and performance. 

5) Fairness and Equity

  • Authentic and equitable treatment of all team members enables trust, vulnerability, authenticity, and community.

  • Strategy: Be transparent with quality standards, financial information, salary data, criteria used to make management decisions, pay scales, privileges, work schedules, promotions, and other factors.

6) Safety

  • Staff are comfortable speaking up and sharing their perspectives without feeling insecure or embarrassed or fearing retribution. This includes operating free of discrimination, harassment, threats, violence and mistreatment in the workplace.

  • A two-year study by Google on team performance showed that the highest performing teams had only trait in common, psychological safety. Strategy: Create a mutual respect and a team culture that made it comfortable for all to contribute (Schneider, 2017).

7) Community at Work and Camaraderie

  • The act of coming together and supporting one another so that mission of the organization can best be served.

  • Strategy: Have meals together (after this pandemic ends) and provide opportunities for staff to connect intellectually and emotionally in a casual, informal setting.

8) Intrinsic Motivation

  • Intrinsic motivation comes from doing an activity rather than from an external reward. It is about doing something for its own sake because it aligns with one's value.

  • Strategy: Take time to understand what motivates your team and what they value.

These work elements are in no particular order of importance. Pick one you can commit to building and start making your organization a better place to work. Because we all have room to learn and grow.

pictorial representation of the 8 ideal work elements

Want to read more? Check out: Stephen Swensen MD, M. M. M., & Shanafelt, T. (2020). Mayo Clinic Strategies to Reduce Burnout: 12 Actions to Create the Ideal Workplace. Oxford University Press.

About the Author

Natalie Robinson Bruner

Natalie Robinson Bruner helps organizations develop systems and implement strategies that engage their workforce by offering a three-stage process of training, planning and offering individualized consulting. By using research, experience, case studies, pragmatic solutions, humor, engaging activities and her own secret sauce; Natalie delivers a powerful message about engaging staff. In a fast-changing world, we need information that engages the organization resulting in realizing a purpose-driven mission, reducing turnover, and impacting the bottom line. Her clients include large to medium-sized businesses, government agencies and non-profit organizations.

Glad●ED Solutions develops succinct, research-based, experienced-informed training coupled with a pragmatic action plan for implementation. We are more than the fly-by-night training. Glad●ED Solutions offers creative solutions for personal and organizational development through corporate training, individual coaching and special events to support career advancement.

Connect with Natalie on LinkedIn and visit her at

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